Wonderful news! For the second year in a row, I’ve been awarded an official media credential to the TCM Classic Film Festival. I’m excited to return to the premiere classic film gathering in the United States. I can’t wait to meet up with fellow film fanatics to experience the camaraderie, special guests, movies, and other events TCM is organizing. Prior to the festival, I’ll be releasing more The Road to TCMFF 2017 pieces. Once the festival goes live, I’ll have daily diaries on this blog; I’ve invested in a digital recorder for on-site interviews; and I’ll be sharing live reactions on Twitter and Instagram. Post-event coverage will include detailed reviews. Prepare to be inundated with updates!
By msbethg in Anouncements, Film Festivals, TCM Film Festival, Upcoming Tags: #TCMFF16, classic, classic film, classic films, classic movie, classic movies, credential, critic, film, film festivals, Film Radar, films, Hollywood, media, media credential, movie, movies, pass, press, press credential, press pass, reporter, reporting, review, reviewer, reviews, revival, specialty, TCM, TCM Classic Film Festival, TCM Film Festival, TCMFF, TCMFF 2016, Turner Classic, Turner Classic Movies, Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, Turner Classic Movies Film Festival
This week has been like Christmas to me! I’ve been more excited than Ralphie discovering that last obsessively desired present–his official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle–hidden behind a desk. I was awarded my first ever media credential to cover the TCM Classic Film Festival! Attending has been a long-term goal. Expect to see pre-festival coverage, posts during the course of the event, interviews, reviews, live tweets, Instagram pics, and more. You may find my festival writings appearing outside of this blog. Friend and Hollywood historian Karie Bible runs Film Radar, a site focusing on revival and specialty films. She’s asked me about contributing additional festival content to Film Radar. This next month will be an exciting one as we head on the road to Los Angeles and to the TCM Classic Film Festival together!
By msbethg in Film Community, Film Critics, Film Twitter, Women Film Critics Tags: academic, academics, Alex Heller-Nicholas, aspirational, Bilge Ebiri, blog, blogger, bloggers, blogging, blogs, book, books, classic, contemporary, criteria, critic, criticism, critics, dearth, female, film, film Twitter, films, include, inclusion, journalist, journalistic, lack, list, list-making, lists, magazines, Marilyn Ferdinand, movie, movies, newspaper, newspapers, online magazines, outlet, outlets, paid, perspectives, physical print, podcasts, print, prominence, publication, publications, publish, publisher, publishers, publishing, radio, reviewer, reviewers, reviews, Sabina Stent, spotlight, The Atlantic, tradition, traditions, transgender, transgenderism, Twitter, Vanity Fair, Variety, woman, women, women film critics, women's, writer, writers, YouTube
What else was I up to during my winter blogging hiatus? My most initially time-consuming movie project outside of Spellbound involves Twitter. After articles from Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and Variety bemoaned the lack of women film critics or their lack of prominence in the industry, I decided to do something pro-active. I created a women film critics list on Twitter. Even though I knew there are a lot of women film critics out there, I did not predict how many hours I’d devote to working on the list!
Based on my internet networking and reading, I knew there wasn’t a dearth of women of all ages engaging with and writing about movies. A lot of easily found online film writing from any gender falls into the category of uncritical fandom. There’s nothing wrong with sharing and delighting in what we enjoy. Sometimes a heartfelt personal recollection of what a movie or performer means to a blogger has more impact than an intellectual analysis, and sometimes both are great pieces to read. My goal in creating the list was to help others find true critics. If you know where to look, there are women producing quality film criticism. My list would cut down the search time to find them.
I began adding familiar critics I knew were on Twitter, and once I had a small list, I started crowdsourcing. I began Tweeting about the list and asking for recommendations. Complain about the term Film Twitter or the community if you like, but Film Twitter was wonderful in responding. The majority of responses I received were not self-serving. Many people, not just women, pointed me to women whose work they enjoy and admire. Some sent me multiple tweets as they thought of additional list members. Bilge Ebiri was one of the stand-outs in repeatedly sharing new recommendations with me. He was walking down the street while tweeting to me, and I imagined him having to avoid slapstick scenarios like walking into street lights or against pedestrian signals. All responders linked to critics’ Twitter handles in Tweets and suddenly these women critics were receiving notifications that their work was valued. Twitter was turning into a love fest! In turn, that led to the new list members suggesting others for inclusion.
One issue I had not predicted was the impact of transgenderism on building the list. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve not used the term “female film critics” as the word female relates to reproductive capabilities. If a person identified as a woman, and she was a movie critic, then I had no problem in listing her, and I received no negative feedback from those women in being included on the list. I was not about to police chromosomes. I was looking for a range of women’s perspectives to add to the list. In a few situations, people recommended I add individuals who may present visually in their styling as women, but identify as they and them in personal pronouns. One such person was good-humored about it and immediately tweeted a correction, so I asked about adding them to my general film critics Twitter list, and they were happy with that solution. In a couple of other cases, I initiated discussion about which list they were comfortable being added to.
Some self-recommendations proved problematic. On Twitter I shared the list was a work-in-progress and recommendations were welcome. The majority of those asking to be added were understanding about not being included yet. Only one major critic told me I had forgotten to add her. I politely responded in a way that seemed to diffuse the situation. Every once in a rare while someone self-recommended who was more aspirational in applying the term film critic to herself. Maybe her body of work was in a creative writing field with few film reviews published recently. Maybe her blog was mostly a personal one with a rare post on film. Maybe her only work published in an outlet was about TV. I tried to be diplomatic when speaking with these women. I didn’t want to diminish the value of the list for those looking for women writing about film, nor did I want to discourage these future movie critics. I always can reconsider someone for inclusion later as they rack up publication credits.
Obviously I developed criteria for making the list. To be fair, I sought feedback from Film Twitter as I created and revised my criteria. Marilyn Ferdinand, Alex Heller-Nicholas, and Sabina Stent were especially helpful during this process. Here’s what I came up with. To be added to the list, women film critics could come from the journalistic or academic traditions. They would have to publish consistently. That did not mean weekly publication as not all outlets follow that schedule, and many women film critics work as freelancers. Outlets include physical print (e.g. magazines, newspapers, and books), online magazines, radio, TV, prominent film blogs, podcasts, and YouTube. Reviewers did not necessarily have to be financially paid for their work. I’m aware that many writers agree to be paid in publication credits, and there are reviewers who self-publish and have followings. In some cases, there were women I could add to the list due to having publication credits, but their Twitter feeds rarely have anything to do with movies. This was especially true of Millennial writers who focus more on cultural commentary on Twitter while their publication credits sometimes include film commentary. I decided that list subscribers want to find women’s film writing, so I didn’t add anyone who doesn’t at least Tweet periodically about film. Right now the list focuses on women who cover contemporary film, and I’m considering who qualifies as a critic working within only the classic film community. As I said before, this is a list is a work-in-progress!
By msbethg in Film Festivals, Genres, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Silent Film Tags: 1906, 1913, 1914, 1920s, 1924, 1924.Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, 1927, 35 mm, 35mm, Academy Awards, accompanist, accompanists, All Quiet on the Western Front, Amazing Tales from the Archives, American, Archives, Arnold Ridley, Arthur Askey, Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, Barry O'Neil, Bartavelle, Berlin, BFI, British, British Board of Film Censors, British Film Institute, Bryony Dixon, Buddhist, cabaret, Castro, Castro District, Castro Theatre, Cave of the Spider Women, centennial, certificate, chanteuse, Chinese, cine-fiction, Clara Gustavsson, comedy, Craig Ventresco Trio, critic, Der letzte Mann, Desmet Collection, disaster, district, Donald Sosin, Dracula, drama, earthquake, Emil Jannings, epic, Ethel Clayton, EYE Filmmuseum, F.W. Murnau, Figures de Circe, film, film festival, film festivals, film fragments, films, fire, fragments, Frank Bockius, Frankenstein, Géza von Bolváry, H, H certificate, Hearst Castle, Holmes, horror, House of Wax, Jennifer Miko, Julia Morgan, Kit Kat Club, Lewis Milestone, Lobster Films, Lubin Manufacturing Company, magic-spirit, magic-spirit film, Maurice Tourneur, McRoskey Mattress Company‘, mega-spectacle, Meredith Axelrod., Milestone, monk, Movette Film Transfer, Murnau, National Library of Norway, Naughty Boudoir Photo Booth, nitrate, opening night, Pan si dong), Paris, party, Paul McGann, Paul Rotha, Poesia Osteria Italiana, print, rare, RMS Lusitania, Robert Byrne, Ruan Lingyu, San Francisco, San Francisco Silent Film, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, Serge Bromberg, SF, SF Silent Film, SF Silent Film Fest, SF Silent Film Festival, Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, short, Siegmund Lubin, Sierra Nevada, Silent Film, silent films, Spider Queen, Stephen Horne, Suzanne Drexhage, Technicolor, Technicolor Corporation, The Ghost Train, The Last Laugh, theater, theatre, W.R. Hearst, war, war film, war films, When the Earth Trembled, William Gillette, world war, World War I, WWI
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is almost here! Its first film fills the Castro Theatre’s screen on Thursday night. We’ll rewind our scene to before its audience sits, before they pile into the picture palace, before they stand in a line snaking down Castro and stretching around the corner down 17th, and stop where they chat with anticipation about the experience that awaits them with their friends. Let’s take a look at the films selected to celebrate the festival’s twentieth anniversary.
It’s incorrect to say the festival eases into its first screening with only one feature. A centerpiece film always kicks off the event in grand style. This year it’s the silent version of war film All Quiet On The Western Front (1930), directed by Lewis Milestone. There were actually two versions of the film made simultaneously, a sound version for English-speaking audiences and an “International Sound Version,” essentially a silent with a later added score and intertitles, written for foreign language markets. While the talkie version was nominated for four Academy Awards and won two, festival Artistic Director Anita Monga says, “Many people consider it to be superior to the sound version.” The epic devastatingly details what happens to a group of young German boys recruited to the trenches of World War I. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra accompany the film.
An off-site opening night party follows the movie. The McRoskey Mattress Company‘s top-floor loft turns into the Kit Kat Club, a 1920s Berlin cabaret hosted by Swedish chanteuse Clara Gustavsson. Also performing are the Craig Ventresco Trio, featuring Meredith Axelrod. Fine food and drink are part of the festivities. Your party ticket gets you nibbles from Poesia Osteria Italiana, wine from Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, beer from Sierra Nevada, and a special cocktail—the Voluptuous Panic—created by Bartavelle‘s Suzanne Drexhage. Vintage attire and dancing are encouraged! Something called the Naughty Boudoir Photo Booth makes a first appearance. Whether you enter the booth before or after imbibing is up to you!
If you attend the party, keep in mind that Day 2 of the fest begins bright and early at 10 AM with Amazing Tales from the Archives! If you miss this educational session, your hardcore silent film fan friends will brag about all the interesting facts they learned and rare films they saw. The ever entertaining Serge Bromberg, of Lobster Films, recounts finding Maurice Tourneur’s 1914 short Figures de Cire (House of Wax). Bryony Dixon brings a treasure trove of footage about the RMS Lusitania to mark the centennial of its sinking, and crowd favorite actor Paul McGann adds narration to her films. Festival President Robert Byrne describes the meticulous process of reconstructing and restoring William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes. In recognition of another centennial, this time Technicolor‘s, Movette Film Transfer‘s Jennifer Miko screens a home movie shot at Hearst Castle and starring its architect Julia Morgan and W.R. Hearst. Donald Sosin accompanies this program.
I’m excited this year’s Chinese selection deviates from past offerings. While the suffering women dramas previously screened, often starring Ruan Lingyu, were excellent, Cave of the Spider Women or Pan si dong (1927) offers something new to the program. It is a magic-spirit film, a genre popular in 1920s Shanghai, but quite rare to screen today due to so much of early Chinese film being lost. A nitrate 35mm print of the movie was discovered in the National Library of Norway‘s archives. This is not an unusual occurrence. Staffing and funding limitations mean that films listed as lost might lay in other archives undocumented and awaiting discovery and thus restoration before they deteriorate too badly to be saved. In the film. a monk and his followers—a monkey, pig, and shark spirit–search for Buddhist texts while facing dangers like the seductive Spider Queen and her handmaidens. Donald Sosin and Frank Bockius accompany the film.
When the Earth Trembled (1913) fills the local interest slot. If you’re guessing by the title that it’s about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, then you are correct! The movie may be the first fictional one made about the disaster, and it incorporates real newsreel footage shot in the earthquake’s aftermath. That’s of special note since the Lubin Manufacturing Company later lost the majority of its newsreel footage in a vault fire, so contained within this disaster epic is a chance to see true life scenes that otherwise would have been destroyed. Director Barry O’Neil‘s insistence on realistic recreations adds to the sense of danger. His leading lady Ethel Clayton almost died when a chandelier fell on her during an earthquake scene. Due to his attention to detail and film mogul Siegmund Lubin devoting four months to making the movie, when normally his studio cranked out two pictures a week, they produced a mega-spectacle that’s sure to thrill today. Multi-instrumentalist Stephen Horne accompanies the film.
Film critic Paul Rotha described The Last Laugh (1924), or Der letzte Mann, as “cine-fiction in its purest form.” Director F.W. Murnau‘s technique was revolutionary. He created a drama focused on an ordinary man’s fall using few intertitles, a fluid camera, and the best of Emil Jannings‘ acting ability. Jannings’ character, a hotel doorman, takes pride in the fine uniform his job provides him. The uniform brings him respect and gives him greater status in his workingclass neighborhood. When his job and uniform are taken away from him, his identity and position are the greater losses compared to the income. The perilousness of work instability and its impact on self-worth and class and social status can resonate for today’s audiences experienced in recession. Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, in its inaugural appearance accompanies the film.
The Ghost Train (1927) is the first film adaptation of the popular stage play by Arnold Ridley. It blends horror and comedy elements in depicting what happens when strangers are stranded at a supposedly haunted train station. I’ve seen the 1941 version starring Arthur Askey, which emphasized comedy over the supernatural, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Hungarian director Géza von Bolváry was freer to play up the story’s spookier and darker aspects. After American horror hits Dracula and Frankenstein upset some vocal members of the public, the British Board of Film Censors created the H(orror) certificate as an advisement in 1932, but in reality that resulted in children under 16 being banned from cinemas showing films labeled such. British filmmakers avoided getting the certificate by avoiding the horror genre. Online clips from the silent version show clever uses of animation and superimposition. Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius accompany the film, and Paul McGann provides narration.
This concludes Part 1 of my San Francisco Silent Film Festival preview. Part 2 follows tomorrow!